October 18, 2013

Burning Leaves

As Fall is creeping in and the days are getting shorter and chillier, I am overcome with the memory of a Saturday in our little house in College Park. My mother in the kitchen listening to the radio. The strains of Maryland University's marching band in the distance. And my Father announcing that, I'm paraphrasing here, 'the damned leaves were not going to rake themselves'.

It was a day in late October. Dad got his workforce in place. I know I was forced labor. I think my brother and sister were probably volunteers. We raked up the quarter acre's worth of leaves that had fallen. It took all day. We made a lot of piles to jump in. We had swordfights with the rakes. We had to take a lot of breaks, of course. The work was backbreaking!

But finally, we would rake the leaves into one huge pile in the driveway. We'd stand around it and shiver as the day grew cold. And then Dad would light the dry, crackling leaves and we would watch the flames flicker for a moment and then suddenly whoosh into a beautiful bonfire. And then we could smell the burning leaves! 

It like to think it was a simpler time. It wasn't really. Lots of things were going on in the world, many of them bad, but I didn't know what was coming. I couldn't foresee future tragedy or celebration. For me on that afternoon it was just the leaves. And that was enough.

Shameless Plug - I am being interviewed on the internet Sunday evening at 6 p.m. by Cyrus Webb. I would love to have you tune in at www.blogtalkradio.com/conversationslive.

October 9, 2013

Keeping the Mystery Alive

I must apologize to any of you who look for this little effort each week. Last week I was just plain out of ideas and it was Tom's birthday - not all week of course, just one day of it - but these things throw me off, so I didn't write my blog. However, I'm back on track this week with a little story of true love and how we met.

Years ago, somewhere around year fifteen in our marriage, I was asked by a niece how Tom and I met. Well, I started to tell her, but Tom said, "She doesn't remember."

Well, of course I remembered. I mean, twenty-some years ago I was a young thing with a pretty good memory. I rarely forgot to wear matching shoes and I could almost always remember where I put my kids. So I was pretty sure I did indeed remember how we met.

It was the night before Thanksgiving 1967. All of my friends who had gone away to college were home for the holiday. We went out and celebrated. After all, this was their first time back in almost three months and we were all now legal to drink beer in DC.

We went to Ben's Hideaway in Northeast Washington just over the state line. Ben's was not a preppy bar. It was not even a nice bar. Truth to tell, it was a bit of a dive. But an awful lot of us ended up there that evening - including Tom and his group of friends who were also home for the holiday.

He and my best friend knew each other well, they had gone to grade school together, and so we were introduced. On my part, it was like at first sight. And, up until the day I was going to tell this story, I thought it was his first sight too. We made a date for that Friday night and the rest is history.

Well, here comes the peculiar part of our little love story. That night was not the first time we'd met. About two years before that he sat in my own living room on Saturday afternoon and I didn't remember.

I had been dating a boy who was really very nice, but - how do I put this gently - not someone I cared to continue dating. So I turned down a few invitations. Unfortunately, he didn't take the hint. He and a 'friend' came by one afternoon and hung out for way too long.

I am ashamed to say that I was absolutely rude to him. There is no other way to put it. I was behaving so badly that another B word comes to mind. But at this point I couldn't figure out any other way to get the message across. Finally, success. I was so unpleasant that the nice boy did stop asking me out.

And during this weird afternoon, his 'friend', my Tom, sat in the corner and watched all of this wretched behavior and didn't say a word. All I remembered was a boy with glasses that I didn't know. And, of course, my behavior being what it was that day, I still can't believe that when we re-met two years later he asked me out. I guess in spite of it all it was like at first sight for him too.

The fact that he waited until we had been married for a fair amount of time to mention this little bit of theatre is a bit odd. You'd think he'd have brought it up at some point in four years of dating and fifteen years of marriage. But there you go, the secret to a good marriage is keeping the mystery alive. It works - forty-two years and counting.